The Russian economy is weak and getting weaker. The Russian government pays people to have babies because the population is declining. Russia makes no product that most westerners can name other than possibly vodka. Ironically, the ‘Stoli’ that the west gets is made in Latvia, a NATO member state. John McCain was right, Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country. What happens when the gas price falls? Russians may starve.
The Soviet Union was a failed state. Putin is wrong lamenting its loss. The world, including Russia, is better off without it. Putin may be just bluffing about a move on Ukraine but geography says he’s not. Crimea is connected to Ukraine, not Russia, and to move goods into or out of Sevastopol to Russia, they must travel through the Ukraine. A large part of the Russian military weapons manufacturing is located in the Ukraine. These factories are integral to Putin’s plan to reconstitute the Soviet strategic power.
Putin will move soon. When he does, Russia will be declared a rogue state and forces will attempt to rein in Putin’s aggression but it may be too late. Putin will have tasted blood and will want more. With U.S. tanks and tank killer aircraft rusting in the U.S. there will be little to stop a push west to Germany short of a nuclear exchange. Putin is betting we don’t have the stomach for that. If he’s right, we will loose Ukraine to Russian aggression and Germany will finally have to face the debt the Russians have kept on the books since Hitler’s 1941, operation Barbarossa.
Putin is betting on the Soviet view of the west as cowardly and willing to give up someone else’s freedom to preserve another month of their own. This is what Hitler relied upon when he took parts of Czechoslovakia. Putin thinks President Obama is weak not just because the disloyal Republican Party controlled by the Soviet funded Koch Family attacks him when they should be supporting him, but also because Putin is, at the base level, a bigot. It’s not just an accident that the GOP loves him.
Russia has a much bigger army than Ukraine. The problem for Putin is that the his army must keep tabs, not just on the Ukraine, but on the North Caucasus and other restive regions of the former Soviet empire. If the west signals that it will assist Ukraine militarily, Putin will be hesitant to engage. If the west tips its hand that it will do nothing, then Ukraine will be lost. Not just occupied: destroyed totally with only the factories of the Russian defense industry in Ukraine’s east left intact. Russian paratroopers are likely studying battle plans to seize the Ukrainian defense industry.
The U.S. Navy is stronger than all the navies in the world combined. The Chinese have a lot of ships, but they are mostly coastal craft. The Russian fleet is a rusting remnant of the Soviet fleet. Russia likely has seven or eight functional ballistic missile submarines that are the only strategic threat to the U.S. Our navy should make it clear to the Russian Navy that it will be an immediate casualty of any further Putin aggression.
The U.N. cannot deal with a permanent member that attacks its neighbors. The basic premise in the Nuclear Age was that the threat of nuclear annihilation was sufficient to force the major players to limit their aggression to proxy wars like Vietnam. Putin knows this and makes a mockery of the U.N. by simply grabbing Crimea. He knows the U.N. is powerless and is betting that Obama is too.
The Russians are hiding their faces. President Obama should establish that any person who assists Putin in his war of aggression will be considered a war criminal. That may have little meaning except when the former Putin soldiers try to enter the U.S. Make it clear that they and their families will be cast to live out their lives in the hell that Russia will soon become.
The U.S. must provide energy support for the Ukraine and Europe by agreeing to supply natural gas to replace what Russia used to supply. Lacking the economic threat of a gas cutoff, Russia’s ability to project its will, economically, is diminished if not lost.
Along with providing natural gas, President Obama should use the Strategic Oil Reserve to force oil prices down. This will impair Putin’s ability to rearm his strategic forces and put pressure on the Russian economy when it is already weak.
Finally, the Ukraine should immediately begin transporting, to the west of Ukraine, all of the factory machine tools located in eastern Ukraine, especially those used in the defense industry. Stalin did this in the face of the German invasion and it worked. U.S. defense firms should step up with proposed joint ventures to assist the Ukrainians in this effort and to employ the Ukrainian workers during the transition.
War is coming to Europe. We can accept the fact or ignore it and just wait for Putin to attack. He’s betting we’ll do nothing.